One of the things I am hearing more and more these days from my daughter is, “Daddy, put down your phone!”. This is also seems to be a common theme in many of the comments I have seen in the google+ community for my current Masters of Education class, EC & I 831. Many of my classmates, myself included, have noticed that time on our smart phones and other devices is taking time away from family. In my previous two blog posts I have been singing the praises of social media but thought I should explore another side of the story and try to answer a few questions. Do I spend too much time on my phone checking my various social media sites? Do I rely on social media as a distraction from other things going on in my life? Do my relationships suffer because I am spending too much time on my phone?
One of the catalysts for this blog post was a video clip I recently saw of comedian Louis C.K. on the Connan O’Brien show. In the video below Louis shares his feelings about cell phones.
Obviously this is an exaggerated commentary by a comedian on a talk show but it really got me thinking about my own personal cell phone use. I find myself on my phone more and more when I have a spare moment. Often I am texting or sending emails to people that I need to communicate with. Sometimes I am using social media in a more official manner, for example; running my schools twitter account, reading, posting and commenting for my aforementioned masters class, promoting an upcoming comedy show on Facebook or Twitter, or writing my latest blog post. However, the rest of the time I am on my phone I am is just surfing around my social media sites; Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, goggle+, Instagram, YouTube, and now my blog. I am listening to music, watching videos, listening to podcasts, reading and responding to Facebook and twitter posts, looking at peoples pictures on Instagram, and communicating with people via instant messaging and email. Sometimes I have to force myself to put my phone down, and sometimes my daughter reminds me that we are in the middle of a tea party and I need to put my phone away!
I am very aware that when I am spending time with my daughter, my girlfriend, my family, or my friends, I should put my phone away and give them the attention they deserve. But what really got me thinking when I watched the Louis C.K. video was his point he made about people using cell phones to avoid feeling lonely. For those of us with smart phones, we have constant access to friends, family, celebrities, sports, music, videos, and pictures. If we so choose, we never have to be alone with our thoughts. Some may argue, “Isn’t looking at a smart phone the same as watching TV?”, and I would say that it is and it isn’t. Using cell phones acts as a distraction the same way watching TV does, but social media is much more interactive than watching TV. You are still alone with your thoughts when watching TV, and when you are on social media sites, you are communicating with people, just not face to face, so there is the allusion of human interaction. I agree with Louis C.K. when he says that people reach for their phones to avoid feeling lonely, to avoid the things they don’t want to think about, and I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing.
I love my phone and I love staying connected with people via social media, but I really do think that our real life human interactions are suffering. It is very cool to be exchanging twitter messages with a friend on the other side of the world, but how about chatting with the person beside you at the dentist office or the person beside you at your child’s swimming lesson. Or more importantly, how about spending a little more time with the people that mean the most to you like your friends and family. Check the link below for some helpful tips on how to limit your social media time and increase your human interaction.
As much as I am an advocate for the proper use of social media, I am also a fan of good, old fashioned, human interaction. So the next time you are tempted to reach for your phone to check your Facebook, or text somebody, try striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you or maybe try just being alone with your thoughts for a little while. Disconnect from your phone for a moment, and try reconnecting with yourself. (Whoa, that was deep.)
I would love to hear what you think on this topic so please comment below! Cheers!